Come to the Table: Savor the last fruits of summer

Take advantage of seasonal fruits with these recipes for tomato tartetatin and plum cake with lime and rose.

Plum cake (photo credit: Gayle Squires)
Plum cake
(photo credit: Gayle Squires)
Farmers markets tell the tale of summer in the Northeastern US. First, garlic scapes appear in May and announce that summer is near. If you like to cook, you greet these green mild-tasting curlicue flowering stalks of garlic bulbs with excitement as there is a whole summer ahead. And during their short run,you might blend the scapes into pesto and cold soups.
Then, after June and July’s corn and zucchini and green beans and carrots, the lush rainbow of tomatoes and berries and stone fruits greet market-goers.
Heavy with nectar and beckoning with scent, these August treasures encourage over-buying and an urgent joie de vivre. It’s hard not to eat a handful of blueberries on the way home, unable to wait to wash them. At home, you lean over a sink to eat a peach, its juices dripping down your chin. When these fruits appear at the markets, timed with the back-to-school sales, they remind you to fill every last moment of summer with sunshine and sand before apples, crisp like the fall air they portend, return.
Farmers market tomatoes (Gayle Squires)Farmers market tomatoes (Gayle Squires)
As August draws to a close, the race to relax, the pressure to make every moment last is keenly felt. US cities clear out as those Americans fortunate enough to have half-day Friday “summer hours” slip away for long weekends in rented homes on a shore or by a lake.
Even if you can’t get away, you can still wring the most out of summer in your own home. Gather up what market treasures are left after munching out of hand and intensify the flavors with just a little bit of preparation or heat. Let the ingredients shine in quick marinated salads - tomato sliced with mozzarella and basil, berries macerated in sugar and mint and drizzled over ice cream. When the day cools to evening and the sweater covers your shoulders, break out a pan and turn on the oven. Toss together a few ingredients and let the heat concentrate the flavors of August. While the gratin or tart or cake or pie is baking, pour yourself a glass of a crisp rosé and watch the fireflies light up the sky and know that an explosion of summer decadence is coming your way.
Tomato tartetatin
Tomato tartetatin with pomegranate and mint (Gayle Squires)Tomato tartetatin with pomegranate and mint (Gayle Squires)
A tartetatin is a traditional French dessert of apples cooked in caramel and covered with puff pastry, then baked and flipped upside-down onto a plate before serving. This variation, made savory with small tomatoes and pomegranate syrup, is perfect for lunch.  Pomegranate syrup (sometimes called pomegranate molasses) is very thick reduction of pomegranate juice. It is puckeringly sour, should not contain sugar, and is available in Middle Eastern grocery stores and online. You can also make your own by boiling down pure pomegranate juice until it reduces to half its original volume. 
Tomato tarte tatin, cooling and ready to flip (Gayle Squires)Tomato tarte tatin, cooling and ready to flip (Gayle Squires)

Allow the tarte to cool for 5-10 minutes before flipping it over because the sauce will be very hot. Eat lukewarm.
This recipe has only approximate measurements because much will depend on how large and how ripe your tomatoes are. It is scaled for a single small tarte (a good lunch-sized portion). If servings as an appetizer or part of a meal, double the recipe and use a 9-inch pan for 4-6 servings. Serves 1 as lunch or 2 as side dish.
-    4 ozs puff pastry (I use half of one of the pastries in a 17-oz Pepperidge Farm 2-pack)-    1-2 teaspoons tomato paste-    1 tablespoon pomegranate syrup/molasses-    1 teaspoon olive oil and extra for greasing-    pinch of sugar-    salt-    pepper-    2 – 3 teaspoons water-    12 – 18 cherry or grape tomatoes-    mint
Prep. Defrost the puff pastry for 20-30 minutes on the counter, or overnight in the refrigerator. (Or, make your own.) Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Lightly grease a small pan (about5 inches across the bottom).
Mix. In the pan, mix together the tomato paste, pomegranate syrup, olive oil. Add a large pinch of sugar, a large pinch of salt, and several good grinds of pepper. Thin slightly with water until it’s the consistency of maple syrup.Arrange. Slice the tomatoes in half through the core and toss them with the syrup in the pan. Arrange them, cut side up in a single layer.
Roll. Roll out the puff pastry dough between two pieces of wax paper into a circle about 1 inch larger than your pan.
Tuck. Transfer the pastry to cover the tomatoes. Tuck the edges around the tomatoes. Cut several short vents in the pastry.
Bake. Bake the tarte until the crust is puffed and golden, 25-30 minutes.
Flip. Let the tarte stand for 5-10 minutes. Run a knife around the pastry to loosen it from the pan. Place a platter on top of the pan and carefully flip the tarte over.
Sprinkle. Thinly slice a few mint leaves and sprinkle them on the tarte right before serving.
Plum cake with lime and rose
Plum cake with lime and rose (Gayle Squires)Plum cake with lime and rose (Gayle Squires)
This recipe was adapted from one on Not Derby Pie. It is quite possibly one of the simplest cakes you can make – all you need is one bowl and a little bit of elbow grease. The batter is thick, but is still pourable. A few swipes of a spatula gets it right into the pan. The fruit juices ooze all over and dribble beautiful color throughout the cake. The plums used were on the tart side, which played nicely against the sweet cake. Lime zest and rose water were added,but they can be replaced by equal amounts of lemon zest and vanilla.
plums sliced over batter, ready to bake (Gayle Squires)plums sliced over batter, ready to bake (Gayle Squires)
Come fall, this cake can be made with apples as well. Apples are not quite as juicy, so it’s worthwhile to first cook them down with a bit of sugar to help them release their juices.
Serves 8-10 and there will be no leftovers. This cake is great with ice cream, but it needs no accoutrement.
-    6-8 small plums or 4-6 large plums-    1 cup flour-    3/4 cup sugar-    2 eggs-    1/2 cup canola oil-    1 teaspoon baking powder-    1 teaspoonrose water (or vanilla)-    1 lime for zest-    Optional: 2-3 tablespoons demerara sugar, also called sugar in the raw or turbinado sugar
Plum cake with rose and lime (Gayle Squires)Plum cake with rose and lime (Gayle Squires)
Prep. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan, springform or square pan. (If you want to plate this, use a springform; otherwise, just serve it out of the pan.) Cut the plums into wedges (6 wedges per small plum, 8 wedges per large). Mix. Mix together the remaining ingredients (except for the demerara sugar). You can mix this all by hand in less time than it takes to drag your stand mixer out of the cabinet.Arrange. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. The batter is thick, so you’ll need a spatula to scoop it all out and then spread it evenly in the pan. Arrange the plum slices however you want and sprinkle with demerara sugar.Bake. Bake the cake for 50-60 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. 
Gayle Squires publishes recipes and photographs on the blog, Kosher Camembert. Her cooking and baking is inspired by international travel .